How would you feel if missiles were raining down on Pittsburgh?
Change the name Pittsburgh to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Beersheba or numerous other towns and cities in Israel, and this is no longer a theoretical question. Citizens of Israel, Jews as well as Arabs, have been subject to an escalating barrage of rockets and missiles launched at them from Gaza by Hamas terrorists for the last three weeks.
One million people in Israel’s southern towns have spent the better part of the past three weeks in bomb shelters. Nearly 6 million people — the same proportion of the U.S. population would be 200 million Americans — are within range of Hamas’ barrage. I happen to be one of them; last week a missile landed not far from my home in the city of Rehovot. Fortunately, it landed in an open field. But that was pure luck.
Imagine a child on summer vacation, swimming in the neighborhood pool or playing soccer when suddenly she is jolted by a loud siren, alerting her to reach shelter in the next 15 seconds or risk her life.
Fifteen seconds. That’s the time it takes for a rocket fired from Gaza to hit a residential area in the southern part of Israel. If you live farther away in the Tel Aviv metro area, home to roughly 1.2 million residents, you have just over one minute to find safety.
Imagine you’re an elderly couple in Tel Aviv talking to your daughter-in-law in Pittsburgh over the phone, when all of a sudden a siren is heard, you cut the conversation short and you rush to the makeshift bomb shelter in your apartment building. My parents found themselves in a similar situation a few days ago. Having gone through several wars and military operations over the years, they knew the drill all too well. They were hoping they would never have to practice it again.
No one should be forced to live under such intolerable conditions. No one should have to live under indiscriminate threat.
This is why, after several weeks of attempting to de-escalate tensions that erupted after the murder of three Israeli teenagers and the reprisal killing of a Palestinian boy, Israel embarked on Operation Protective Edge, whose primary goal is defending against the terrorism directed at its civilian population by Hamas.
Hamas is a terrorist organization that effectively controls Gaza and is directly responsible for war crimes against millions of people in Israel as well as in Gaza. It cynically uses the civilian population in Gaza as a protective shield, positioning its rocket launchers in the midst of schools, mosques and homes. Its goal, as clearly stipulated in its charter and repeated daily by its leadership, is to wipe Israel off the map and kill Jews. It is a terror group cut from the same cloth as groups like al-Qaida or ISIS that have taken so many innocent lives.
The exponential increase in Hamas’ acts of terror in recent weeks is the result of a growing sense of empowerment and confidence its leadership gained after joining a unity government with the Fatah Party controlled by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, at his invitation. If there is a lesson to be learned from this escalation, it is that this unholy alliance should be dissolved immediately.
Operation Protective Edge is needed to ensure that no more children — Jewish or Palestinian — are sacrificed on the altar of Hamas’ hatred. It was initiated to defend Israel’s civilian population against rockets and missiles launched by Hamas. It will end once Hamas ceases launching those rockets and missiles.
Yaron Sideman is consulgeneral of Israel to the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, which comprises Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia, Kentucky and southern New Jersey. He is based in Philadelphia.